April 28, 1913: Peace Returns to West Virginia Coalfields

Henry D, Hatfield

On April 28, 1913, coal operators and United Mine Workers of America accepted a new contract ending the yearlong Paint Creek-Cabin Creek Strike in Kanawha County. It was the bloodiest strike of the West Virginia Mine Wars. The settlement was known as the “Hatfield Contract” because it was practically dictated to both sides by new governor Henry Hatfield.

While Hatfield’s actions ended one of the deadliest strikes in U.S. history, he was criticized by some for handling it in a heavy-handed way. While Hatfield pardoned many labor leaders who’d been tried and convicted through court martial, he also kept radical strike supporters in jail without charges and dispatched the National Guard to close Socialist newspapers in Charleston and Huntington. His actions helped ensure an inquiry by the U.S. Senate, the first time a congressional committee ever investigated a state government.

In addition, the miners’ discontent with the Hatfield Contract led to the election of more radical labor leaders, such as Frank Keeney, Fred Mooney, and Bill Blizzard. These young men took a more militant stand against the coal industry that culminated in the 1921 Battle of Blair Mountain.